Miami Dolphins players started reporting to the team Wednesday morning for a training camp that begins in earnest Thursday. And welcoming the group to the team’s Davie practice facility?
A very happy Adam Gase.
The Miami head coach, starting his third season with the team, was bounding around the Dolphins’ building early in the day as if he were a kid on Christmas morning about to unwrap a lot of new toys.
“I’m in a good place,” Gase said while his players took their physicals. “I’m fired up. I like this group, man.”
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TV pundits, radio talk-show hosts, and Las Vegas oddsmakers believe the Dolphins are about to embark on another disappointing season, just at or below .500 and out of the playoffs. Gase doesn’t worry about those opinions, because he played a key role in putting this roster together, along with general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum.
And Gase has a different opinion about his team.
”We have a bunch of guys that are grinders and workers and guys that, really, are not afraid to fight,” Gase said. “We’re going to end up having 53 guys on the roster when we cut this thing down that when it gets rough, they’re going to charge ahead.
“These guys are going to put in the work. They do the right things on the field. They do the right things in the meetings. It’s exciting to go to meetings, to go to the practice field. It’s exciting to be around these guys, because you can tell they’re so into football. It’s exciting to be around.”
Wasn’t it like that in previous seasons?
“I’m going to focus on the 2018 season,” Gase said diplomatically.
Me? I’m no diplomat. Last year was miserable for so many reasons that perhaps the only thing good about it is that it ended. The history of Miami’s 2017 troubles is well-chronicled so feel free to catch up on some of the issues if you want.
But Gase is suggesting those issues won’t be, well, an issue this season.
“I really enjoyed this spring,” Gase said of the endless camps, OTAs, and conditioning sessions that all teams work through in the offseason. “When you come into a meeting and when we’re watching film and we’re on the practice field, the way guys are working, they pay attention, they ask questions.
“It makes you feel as a coach that when you’re putting in your work and then you go down there, there’s reciprocation, there’s real interest, there’s feedback. You feel like you’re in it together, and you’re working together.”
The 2018 Dolphins will have difficult moments. Everyone does. Adversity is woven into the fabric of every NFL season. But Gase is going to encourage his players to rise to occasions rather than submit to problems.
“If there is any adversity or challenge, we’re going to run into the fire,” the 40-year-old coach said. “There is no backing away. We want to embrace the challenges that are ahead because that’s the type of players we have.”
The challenges begin with the weeks of hot, humid practices. Training camp kicks off with lighter drills, as the NFL mandates. But then pads will go on, and contact can begin this weekend.
“I’m most interested in seeing when we get pads on how the o-line works together because I thought those guys really worked well together in the spring,” Gase said. “I’m kind of excited to see Frank [Gore], and [Kenyan] Drake and [Kalen] Ballage and Senorise [Perry], and that [running-back] group; how we’re meshing with the o-line.
“I’m interested to see how our run game is going to take shape.”
These Dolphins start with an offensive line that seems generally settled. (I cannot believe I can write that sentence). So the organization believes it addressed a big concern that dogged past Miami teams.
But there are concerns.
“I’m good, man,” Gase said when asked about his concerns.
You have zero concerns?
“Well, I mean, I’m curious to see what happens at cornerback with that battle and see who steps up,” Gase answered. “How’s Tony [Lippett] going to look this training camp? Can we keep getting Tank [Cordrea Tankersley] better?
“Really, that’s the one I’m curious to see how it plays out because especially toward the end of spring I could see Tony start feeling better about where he was health-wise — where earlier in camp he was feeling it out and I think he was playing a little cautious.
“He didn’t want to get beat. And we kept encouraging him that you’re going to get beat, it’s not a big deal, you’re going through rehab. You’re trying to get your skills back so don’t prevent yourself from getting better by playing cautious. It’s been five weeks since then so I’m interested to see how that battle goes a little bit.”
That’s fine, but the entire earth is focused on the Miami quarterback situation and Ryan Tannehill. The man has not played a game since December 2016 after consecutive ACL injuries on the same knee cost him the last 20 games.
Gase isn’t dismissive of the injuries. But he’s upbeat about what Tannehill will show everyone this coming season.
“When your starting quarterback is coming off an injury, everybody’s going to talk about it,” Gase said. “He’s going to be good. We’re good.
“I have a lot of confidence in how he’s going to play this year. I’ve seen him in practice way too much the last two years and I’m excited to get him back in the game because the guy we saw last time he played against Arizona is a totally different guy at this point.”
By “different,” Gase meant better.
We’ll see starting Thursday.